Of snakes and men

On hot days I take my dogs for a walk in the river on my property. In the heat of summer most of the water is diverted for the purpose of local irrigation, growing crops of New Mexico chili, pinto beans, squash and corn. Irrigation for local farmers restricts the river from a five-foot deep rushing torrent to a creek that barely runs at all. It’s fun to take the dogs up the river and back, chasing minnows, crayfish and dragonflies. On the way back to the house, we run up the slope through the small forest of knee high plants with cabbage like leaves and bright white flowers.

On our run back to the house from the river about five weeks ago, I heard a distinctive sound. Your ear never forgets this sound after the first time you hear a rattler. I quickly yelled at the dogs to stay away, get away, and yelled ‘no’ very loudly. They were unaware of the dangerous reptile at their feet. My feet were bare as were my legs. I am no stranger to snakes and have a great respect for them. Their symbolism, independent strength and grace are to be admired. But anything venomous on your property is not a great idea when you have horses (who fear them), and dogs who love to play with reptiles.

I have had rattlesnakes on my property before, but since they were thick as my upper arm and five feet long, I have had to call in neighbors to deal with them. I called my riding friend a few houses down and told him what was going on. He said “You can handle it. Just take a shovel and do it.” I was stupefied. Me? Kill a snake? Oh, no I can’t do that. No, no, no! Every fiber in my being fought the idea. I hemmed and hawed and danced around and could not do it. But I still had a problem on my hands. I needed to act quickly.

I finally saw another neighbor next door. I said “Hey there is a rattler on my property and I am scared of it.” He said “Well just bring it over here and I’ll take care of it.” Huh? Bring it over? Say what? Oh, the sarcasm was there but, I was stunned at such a flippant and uncaring answer. I have been nothing but a good neighbor to this person. He has even said so to may face on many occasions. But for some reason he was playing with me and being downright rude.

In a panic, I called back my riding friend and said “Look I really don’t have the nerve to do this. I like snakes! This is a living thing and I don’t want to kill it, but it can’t stay on my property.” Since soul dog left, none of my dogs would know what to do, and soul dog would have handled it perfectly. Sigh. My riding friend did not come over, and I would never ask outright. I figure if I outlined the situation it was up to him to offer, and not feel obligated at the same time. He insisted that I could do it. He said I had to learn to do this sort of thing, if I was going to live in the Southwest. He continued in a friendly voice and said “Just suck it up and do it. I know you can do it!” I hung up, and did the deed, which made me uncomfortable on many levels. It made me sick to my stomach. I realized after I did it that this was the most difficult thing I had ever done in my life. It took more courage to do it than I imagined I had. By a factor of 10!

I took a walk to blow off steam, and on the way back I saw a snake curled up on the side of the road basking in the late afternoon sun. I went a little closer to take a look and saw it was a bull snake. Harmless and also beneficial in its appetite for eating mice. I wanted to make sure it was not another rattler in my area. There are a lot of mice on my property and I always welcome most snakes to live there to help with that ‘natural balance’ of things.

This was a tale of two snakes and two men. One man and one snake were dangerous, and the other man and the other snake were beneficial. Had my friend not insisted I had the courage to kill the rattlesnake, I would never have found that supreme amount of courage and guts it took for me to kill it. The ‘bad’ neighbor had been shitty to me, and I would rather have had him say “No, I can’t help you” or anything rather than his sarcastic and dishonest reply. My good friend had done me a favor, in terms of giving me courage, that he is probably to this day not aware of how much he helped me.

Courage can come from anywhere, deep inside you, even if you don’t think you have it.

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Goodbye Soul Dog

It’s been just over three months that I let my soul dog, Google go forward to his journey off planet. He was 12 years and 8 months old. Not bad for a 72 lb dog. It was so hard to do, but I feel I had a very complete experience with him. I waited for a sign from him that it was time. Believe me, your animal will let you know when it is time.

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On his last day on the planet, I invited close friends to sit and visit with him out in the yard and the sunshine. All his dog friends were there and people came by to say goodbye. It was one of the very rare sunny days we had in a cloudy and cold early Spring. When it was time to go, we had to plan how to get him into the truck to get to the vet because of his severe arthritis and inability to move much. We decided to place his jumbo sized memory foam bed into the back of the pickup truck. Then three of us lifted him as gently as possible onto it. Then I got into the back of the truck with him and lay down behind him, hugging him and talking to him. I told him to look at the gorgeous sky of blue with tons of white fluffy clouds, and that he was a New Mexico dog for his whole life, and not to forget that. I saw him sniffing the air and still being curious about life.

The experience at the vet was very special. I stayed in the back of the truck with my dog hugging him. We agreed it was best to have it happen outside. Google was an outside dog and going inside the vet’s office would make him unnecessarily uncomfortable. My veterinarian is a member of the Jemez tribe. He said, “I am going to talk to Google. This is my Indian prayer.” He said a very special prayer speaking to my dog, in his tribe’s native language, before Google Doggen passed. This was so different than having someone pray over my dog. Then my vet interpreted the prayer and told me what he said. After everyone went back inside, I spent more time with his body, it was so hard to let go. I wanted a few more minutes to nuzzle his neck and dig my nose into his soft fur, like I had done so many times while he was alive.

At the crematorium I had several items picked out to go with him from home. I had a Mexican falsa blanket to wrap him in, some locally grown sage, incense sticks, and the most important item, his favorite old, deflated basketball. Hey if a dog spends his whole life chasing a basketball, he should get to have it in the end! I told the staff to ‘wrap him up like a burrito’ with all the items. Google deserved the best sendoff I could give him. I picked out a great urn, had it engraved, and also selected some jewelry where you can have some of the ashes inserted. One of those necklaces is hanging on the rear view mirror of my car, so he always rides along with me.

When you give it your all, for every part of the process, it helps with grief and loss. Don’t hide from any part of it. Be with your pet until the end. When you are fully present for the entire journey, it helps with grief and loss. Part of that experience was having him cremated and making a shrine in my home on a bookcase. Every week I buy fresh flowers at the grocery store. I have his old collar wrapped around his urn. It is a way to honor his memory, and still have him near me. It is hard to believe I can’t go out and find him in his usual spot under the porch, or pet him.

The Shamanic experience is about ‘soul retrieval’ for parts of your life you lost along the way—when your heart feels broken. What I did with Google Doggen was so complete that there is no part of my soul that needs retrieving. That is the best way to describe it. Yes, I miss him, but I feel so complete in his full experience here on earth, and with me, that I don’t have a heavy heart when I think of him. It’s finished. The feeling in my heart is light and free.

Sweet Dreams Google Doggen

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